contrastive stress on "an"

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Tue Nov 13 16:25:38 UTC 2007


Both /ey/ and /aen/ sound good to me; I think the contrastive stress
does away with the /n/ requirement in the first (and I don't have the
/n/ in colloquial usage anyhow). Fun variationist project: Does
contrastive stress on "an" more often realize itself as /ey/ for
speakers who don't have the nasal?


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>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: thee for the
>At 9:48 AM -0500 11/13/07, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>How about emphatic "ay" for "a"? "I don't mean A man, I mean THE man."
>>I still make this distinction, but it's beginning to feel a little
>I still hear this a lot in contrastive (and not necessarily pompous)
>contexts.  (Im on high alert for these because it's something I've
>written about in papers.)  The tricky thing (for some speakers,
>anyway) is when you want to contrast an "an" indefinite with a
>"the(e)" definite, since "ayn" is impossible (unless you're referring
>to the objectivist) and stressed "AEN" sounds a bit weird:
>It's not just A solution, it's THE solution.
>??It's not just AN answer, it's THE answer.
>It's not THE factor, but it's A factor.
>??He's not THE expert, but he's AN expert.
>>On 11/12/07, James Harbeck <jharbeck at> wrote:
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>>>   Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>>   Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
>>>   Subject:      thee for the
>>>   A restaurant in the Agincourt part of Toronto (often called
>>>   Asiancourt because of its high percentage of Chinese and other East
>>>   Asian residents) is called Thee Asian Kitchen. You can find its
>>>   website at . It serves Thai,
>>>   Japanese, and Chinese cuisine. My initial take on it is that this is
>>>   intended to be a somehow "classier" or more formal/archaic rendering
>>>   of "the". It could, on the other hand, be a Thai name ("thee" is, I
>>>   think, a word in Thai).
>>>   A little looking on the web finds Thee Bungalow,
>>> , in San Diego -- it has apparently been
>>>   there for 30 years. You can also find assorted hits if you Google
>>>   |thee shoppe|, for instance and
>>> .
>>>   Evidently this isn't especially uncommon or new (well, of course,
>>>   "thee" can be seen for "the" in some Middle English texts) in
>>>   signage, but I have to say I'm far more used to seeing "Ye" (always
>>>   reanalyzed, of course -- nobody knows about thorn these days!). For
>>>   this area in particular (Toronto and, more specifically, Agincourt),
>>>   I think the "thee" is something new. The only other business I can
>>>   find with "thee" in its name in the Toronto area in is
>>>   Thee Place for Paws Grooming Studio in Barrie (an exurb of Toronto).
>>>   I find three "Ye Oldes". (Googling "ye olde" gets 1,890,000; "thee
>>>   olde" gets 3,630, but it would seem that "thee" can be used without
>>>   the "olde" whereas "ye" always seems to get it -- I'm sure if anyone
>>>   has exceptions I'll hear of it.)
>>>   I wonder whether "thee" use in this way is on the increase or
>>>   decrease or is level.
>>>   Just incidentally, "kermit thee frog" gets 381 ghits. But I don't
>>>   have a sense (purely impressionistically) that "thee" for emphatic
>>>   "the" is really current.
>>>   James Harbeck.
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Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
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Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1036 USA
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